During the primary campaign, I quoted John McCain as saying that "the Confederate flag is a symbol of slavery and oppression." McCain fans sent me e-mails saying that that was quoted out of context. I saw him say it, and it was not quoted out of context. Someone else said it was the result of editing. I have done a lot of tape editing in my time, and this was no edit.

But someone else did say something about that comment which was true. He said McCain had disavowed that statement on his website. He denied it throughout the primary campaign.

Now McCain has come to South Carolina to say, yes, that is exactly what he did say and that is exactly what he did mean.

McCain is so happy. The press is proud of him again.

During the campaign I pointed out that every one of what the press calls McCain's "bold, independent statements" was devoted to catering to liberals. Not once did he defy THEM, and they loved him for it. As the most respectable of respectable conservatives, McCain was crazy about all that liberal praise. It hurt him to have to bow out on attacking the flag during the primary campaign. It disappointed his leftist fans.

For McCain, all is now well. Granted, he admitted to an outright lie. But he gave the media a way to save its old "He's so honest" mantra. He did this by admitting he was afraid he would lose the primary if he came out against the flag back then. So that makes him honest, you see.

This is supposed to charm us and everybody can say what an honest, fearless man he is.

This is how respectable conservatives operate. Last week, I explained how William Buckley wrote a column in which he started off sounding conservative. It said that Pinochet was being kidnapped from Britain and sent to Spain for trial by leftists because he was a rightist who had driven the Communists out of power in Chile. Buckley stated that that no former leftist official would ever be tried for any crime. So he sounded conservative.

But at the end of his column, Buckley insisted that the leftists should have had their way and gotten Pinochet. Like McCain, he sounds conservative or honest at first, but he reserves the bottom line for anything liberals really want. And what liberals really want is that leftist extremists be treated as misguided idealists and rightists as criminals.

By the same token, McCain saves the bottom line for the liberals.

The bottom line is that he said what I heard in the first place. The bottom line is that he lied about it. But betraying the right is what makes him so bold, independent -- and above all HONEST-- in the eyes of the liberal media.